The commanding officer of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier that buried Osama bin Laden's body at sea said Monday he is returning home with one message for his 5,500 sailors, pilots and crew: Be safe.
Capt. Bruce Lindsey talked to reporters Monday in a teleconference call from the ship. It's scheduled to return to San Diego Wednesday, ending a six-month deployment.
Lindsey wouldn't comment on bin Laden's burial, except to say appropriate precautions are being taken for the crew's safety. He said the Navy teaches sailors about situational awareness on the flight deck, advising them to keep their heads on a swivel at all times so they are never caught off guard.
"We try to bring that (idea) into a sailor's everyday life too," he said, so when they are off the ship, off the base, they maintain an acute awareness of everything around them.
He remembered in 1989 when the wife of the captain of the USS Vincennes narrowly escaped unharmed after a pipebomb blew up under her mini-van as she drove to work in San Diego, nine months after the ship had shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in the Persian Gulf, killing 290 civilians.
The FBI later said the pipebomb case appeared to be someone with a personal vendetta against former Navy Capt. William C. Rogers III.
Lindsey said he also has been working with family readiness groups to ensure no details slip out on Facebook or other social media sites that would compromise their safety. He said there have been two incidences when things that raised a red flag appeared on the ship's Facebook page _ which has more than 31,000 friends _ but they were quickly removed.
The USS Carl Vinson was in the North Arabian Sea last month when it received a Navy SEAL team carrying the body of the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Pentagon officials speaking about the burial have said that bin Laden's body was placed in a weighted bag on the carrier and that an officer made religious remarks before the remains were put on a board and tipped into the sea.
The massive Vinson deployed to the Middle East and Asia spent 171 of 191 days at sea and sailed more than 52,340 nautical miles.
Because of the long time out at sea, Lindsey said the crew was allowed two beers per sailor and given the chance to swim off the stern dock more than once. For many of the sailors it was their first deployment out of the shipyards.
During its deployment, the ship also helped civilian mariners under attack by pirates and conducted training exercises with coalition nations, including Australia, Britain, France, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Singapore, Britain, France and Australia.